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My multi-sited research investigates sanhus (the amateur individual investors) in the Chinese stock market. In this research, I enquire about the ideas about the market, particularly financial norms, by examining amateur practice. My ethnography focuses on multiple online sanhu communities and in-person meetings with participants of these groups. Through the everyday interactions with my interlocutors, I investigate how individuals attach meanings to the stock market and how stock market participation reflects and influences their everyday life. Through this phase in China’s market economy reform, the research would provide insights on the political economy in China through individual perspectives. In my fieldwork in 2021-2022, I joined the online sanhu communities, learned their way of interpreting the market, and eventually became an investor. As a parallel, I travelled to nine different cities in China to meet my interlocutors in person. The fieldwork has been thoroughly influenced by the pandemic from the first day to the last. I experienced various restrictions in different cities in China and had to rearrange many meeting plans, particularly due to my frequent travel for the research. 


No Photos, No Virus

This was taken at the international arrival at Xiamen airport in the summer of 2021. All the international travellers waited to be tested for COVID-19 before going into the two-week hotel isolation. All arrived passengers were identified as ‘Key Persons’ for COVID infection. We needed to take a swab test and a blood test, and fill various overlapping forms to declare their previous travel history, both on our phones and on paper. The process was exhausting for the passengers who just came off a 14-hour flight plus another two hours on the plane till the airport was ready for reception. Many of us had another ten more hours’ transit beforehand. The staff at the airport also suffered from the summer heat in Xiamen, with all the protective suits locking the heat within. A moment after this picture was taken, a security guard shouted aggressively to me that no photographs were allowed.


Social Security

Winter, 2021 in Guangzhou, this picture was taken in front of Yuexiu District’s Human Resource and Social Security Bureau, when the city lifted its precautions in December due to the spreading Delta variant in Shenzhen. In 2021, China celebrated the Party’s 120th founding anniversary with various decorations left in public spaces. Here a banner remained at the bureau’s entrance stating, ‘CCP merits to be the great, glorious, and righteous Party’. In front of this tribute, a homeless person was napping silently on the busy street by the bureau and was the only person who did not wear a mask.


The Lockdown

In October 2022, shortly after the National Day holiday, my flat complex in Nanjing suddenly went into a round of strict lockdown due to potential exposure to COVID-19. One Friday evening, I went to get dinner and only to find that the authorities locked and sealed off the entrance with a single notice on the wall. It stated that people in this complex, residents or not, were not allowed to leave the complex for the coming few days till further notifications. We did not know why and how long it would take: 3 days if no new patients were discovered and more if there were any. Rumours spread like wildfire about how outsiders travelled from provinces with high-risk regions and thus caused trouble. Nobody knew which building was influenced and how serious it was. We gathered at the entrance of the complex and tried to get groceries delivered through the bars. A delivery guy sympathetically asked me whether I could still get paid not going to work. “It’s just bad luck. Things will be alright.” He comforted me. The lockdown lasted for four days, during which residents were not encouraged to leave their homes. We could only take the tests promptly every morning and wish for the best. The picture shows the queue for testing on one of those days.